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Federally Qualified Health Centers(FQHCs) and EHR Adoption

Federally Qualified Health Centers(FQHCs) and EHR Adoption
08 July 2019

What are FQHCs? Well, they “are nonprofit, community-directed health care providers serving low-income and medically-underserved communities. FQHCs provide quality, affordable primary and preventive care for those of whom, other providers do not serve, regardless of an individual’s ability to pay.”((“Is an FQHC a Fit for Your Community?” Minnesota Association of Community Health Centers))

But they’re more than that. They are a necessary service, considering that since 2017, for the first time since the implementation of ACA, the rate of uninsured people have started going back up, with now there being 27.4 million people who are uninsured.((“Key Facts about the Uninsured Population” The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation))

There are multiple reasons for the rise in the uninsured, but the main reason is the one that you would expect, money. “In 2017, 45% of uninsured non-elderly adults said they were uninsured because the cost is too high, making it the most common reason cited for being uninsured. Though financial assistance is available to many of the remaining uninsured under the ACA, not everyone who is uninsured is eligible for free or subsidized coverage.”((“Key Facts about the Uninsured Population” The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.))

The result of lack of insurance is the lack of proper treatment. Consequently, people suffer and  put their long term health at risk. In fact, a recent survey said that 64% of Americans avoid or delay treatment due to cost of medical care. ((Gooch, Kelly. “64% of Americans Avoid or Delay Treatment Due to Cost of Medical Care” ))

This is why FQHCs are important. They provide care to those who cannot provide it for themselves. 

According to The Commonwealth Fund, FQHC EHR adoption has gone up by 133% over the last 4 years ((EHR Adoption Increases 133% at Community Health Centers.EHRIntelligence)). Even more stunning, 93% of FQHCs now possess an EHR. Why? FQHCs are strapped for revenue and resources as is, yet they’re spending money on EHRs. 

So, how does EHR adoption help FQHCs help their constituency? What is the motivation for them to adopt EHRs at such a high rate?

The Commonwealth Fund’s Vice President for Delivery System Reform, Melinda Abrams, says that, “as demand for their services increases, it will be essential for health centers to have the resources necessary to meet patients’ needs.” What does that mean? Yes, an effective EHR system will help care providers see more patients. Yes, it will help patients and providers stay in sync on the treatment plan. Yes, it will help providers stay up to date on and keep a record of all pertinent information about their patient, in turn helping the patient save money by not having them take the same tests multiple times; not having to waste time by waiting on transfer of data from different providers; not having to come back for multiple visits. 

But it’s more than that. For any organization to work, there needs to be an influx of revenue. For FQHCs, that is public funding. But as the demand for FQHCs rise, they need more revenue. This is where FQHCs come in. Due to adopting EHR, “76% of FQHCs have received incentive payments for Stage 1 of Meaningful Use.”

But EHRs are not perfect and they don’t go smoothly. While EHRs are useful and beneficial, they come with their own host of problems. For instance, usability. Most EHRs are off-the-shelf, meant for any situation, type software. These are better than having no EHR, but they’re also restrictive and doesn’t allow the provider to give the best care possible. In a situation like the one that FQHCs face, they want to be able to provide care as quickly and as efficiently as possible. An EHR that is tailored for an FQHC and its needs would benefit them greatly. 

Furthermore, in the case of an off-the-shelf EHR software, the implementation costs alone would be astronomical and would ruin the purpose of getting an EHR. Having to have care providers set aside valuable time to learn the ins and outs of a system would take time away from the people in need. Then, there is the matter of what happens if they don’t understand the system well? It would lead to care provision being SLOWED down and might lead to MISTAKES that lead to catastrophe. 

Earlier, we mentioned how EHRs would help providers save time by being able to communicate with other providers about patients. But that’s not fully possible with all systems. A lot of these off-the-shelf EHR systems do not have the ability to transfer data with full integrity. This means that a provider is not getting the most up to date and full scope of data. This is dangerous. 

FQHCs would be best served with an EHR system that is capable of meeting all of these needs. An off the shelf EHR system is not going to serve FQHCs well. What they need is a custom EHR software. One that is meant to meet their needs. 

They need an EHR that is capable of:

  • Providing multi speciality care.
  • Saving and storing the most up to date patient data.
  • Transferring and receiving data safely with full integrity.
  • Working with the provider to be able to give quick and efficient care.
  • Being implemented and usable easily, while meeting the needs of the care providers, without the need for an intrusive amount of training hours and without worry that care providers will not retain or understand the software.
  • Doing billing and insurance filing automatically, saving patients money and helping the center reduce spending AND increase revenue.

FQHCs are necessary in today’s healthcare climate. Millions rely on it. Their functioning has to be as efficient and effective as possible. A good EHR software can do that and more. At the end of the day, EHRs are being adopted at a fast rate and money is being spent on them. Why not get the best possible version of it?